Magazine article Marketing

Sponsorship Conference: How to Pick the Right Partner

Magazine article Marketing

Sponsorship Conference: How to Pick the Right Partner

Article excerpt

As the sponsorship market explodes, it is vital for brands to choose their tie-ups with care, writes Becky Charles.

Book now to discover more effective ways to engage in this burgeoning sector. Call 020 8267 4542.

Sponsorship has come of age and is now one of the fastest-growing areas of marketing as brands strive for innovative ways to get noticed and be remembered.

The European sponsorship market is worth pounds 4.5bn, according to the European Sponsorship Association, and globally its value is expected to grow 10% this year, from pounds 16.2bn in 2005 to an estimated pounds 18bn.

Sport continues to dominate the sector in terms of investment, accounting for 91% of spend, according to The World Sponsorship Monitor. However, music, film, the arts, TV and community activity are all seeing a surge in interest.

The most obvious attractions of sport sponsorship are the huge audiences it delivers and the energetic attributes with which sponsors wish to be associated. Stephen Hall, head of sports sponsorship at McDonald's, and a panellist at Marketing's Sponsorship Conference in November, says: 'Ninety-eight per cent of our customers like sport, so they buy into the values that sport sponsorship, and especially football, provides'.

However, sport sponsorship has become a victim of its own success. It has become highly competitive, resulting in increased clutter as well as spiralling costs for sponsors, and a key challenge is to ensure that brands stand out. 'Perimeter boards are no longer enough,' warns Hall. 'They don't engage with consumers on an emotional or individual level, which is why we decided to focus on training football coaches and providing sponsored equipment.'

There is also a danger that if brands spend all their money on perimeter boards, they leave themselves with few funds left to promote their association with the sport.

Not surprisingly, many brands have begun to look to other sectors for partnerships that can offer them better value for money and a unique way to engage with consumers.

Music has been a significant beneficiary. 'People are passionate about music, which means they are more open to engaging with brands that associate with it,' says Stephen Rogan, head of sponsorship at Virgin Mobile and also a panellist at Marketing's Sponsorship Conference. 'Music can be a powerful motivator for young people to adopt brands, and sponsoring music events gives brands access to this sought-after audience.'

Partnering music events also gives brands the opportunity to add value to an experience. 'It is the little things that connect with people,' says Rogan; at this summer's V Festival, the operator set up a branded van offering free kebabs to Virgin Mobile customers.

Virgin Mobile is a relevant sponsor of music festivals, given its parent brand's strong music heritage and the latest mobile phones' ability to play and download music. But for other brands there is a danger of a poor fit that could alienate a savvy youth audience. As much of the music industry is not yet fully set up to accommodate sponsorship opportunities, partnerships can also be much more difficult to develop.

The arts are relatively new to the consumer sponsorship arena, but accounted for 7% of sponsorship deals in 2005, according to The World Sponsorship Monitor. …

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